Trout Flies, Fly Fishing, Guadalupe River
This year I traveled across the country and covering thousands of miles with job changes. I have fished Estes Park in Colorado, the Bighorn River in Montana, most of the drainages of the Bighorn National Forest and now Puta Creek in California. However, Texas still seems like home and I had to go fishing while I returned home for the holidays. I am still pretty leery of comparing the annually stocked trout of the Guadalupe to the native cutthroats of the Bighorn Mountains, but the trout of the central Texas hold a special place in my life long fishing adventure since they were the first trout I ever caught.
The weather change has pulled much of Texas out of the drought conditions of the last few years. In these years, flows of 100 CFSon the Gudadalupe were treasured on the few days they occurred during the drought, but now flows in the 500 CFS range make for completely new fly fishing challenges. The combination of high (but good) flows and exceptionally warm temperatures this winter have made fishing generally difficult. Daniel Hughes (@cordovacustomrods on Instagram and now guide for ReelFly Fishing Adventures) and I have been discussing these challenges for a couple weeks in anticipation for a holiday fishing trip on the Guadalupe.
As our battle plan formed from a mix of our own experience as well as stories from other anglers that fished in the days of yore (when Texas had flow). Ultimately, we settled on sinking lines and streamers. One of my long term goals has been to catch a trout on the Guadalupe with an articulated streamer. My normal fishing access points are usually so heavily pounded with olive wooly buggers that tossing streamers bigger then a size 10 would be foolish. However, since I would able to float regions of the river with Daniel that are not accessible by foot I hoped to finally scratch this one of f the list.
This logic proved sound as I both achieved my goal. I had a nice trout come flying out of the bottom of deep pool to crash my streamer near the surface. A color variant of Fly Fish Food's Cheech Leech proved to be too much of a temptation. Other fish fell to some of my other small streamers and a sculpzilla variant thrown by Daniel. Perhaps streamers and sinking lines will be a new and reliable option in the high flow conditions.
Fly Fishing, Fly Tying, Trout Flies
I often mess with other people’s fly patterns on my vise. In other words, I adjust the materials or modify the pattern in some minor way. At what point do minor modifications make a new pattern? I have no idea and I am not too bothered by it because I do my best to give credit to the patterns that inspire my own. That being said, I will happily bastardize anything that I see needing a little “Bertrand Flavor.” Usually, my personal touch comes in one of three forms:
Simplifying flies is always risky. It is safe to assume the original pattern included essential materials in the pattern. However, I feel the features of the materials often outweigh the amount of material used. Thus, it is often possible to reduced the steps or amounts of certain materials, but maintain the specific and often essential quality in the pattern. For example, a Half Back fly includes a second palmered hackle over the anterior portion of the peacock hurl body. However, I find that the flies without the anterior hackle catch fish equally well. I believe the anterior hackle is unnecessary because the qualities of rear palmered hackle are enough to create the right features in the water.
Alternatively, I can take an existing pattern and add materials or steps to the tying process that produce a more reliable fly (at least until its actually tested on the water). These modifications often take simple forms. Brass beads are common additions to many classic patterns, but I favor colored glass beads too. These beads come in many different colors and can add either bright contrast or more subtle accents to a common fly. What is most important is that the pattern now looks slightly different from the common pattern thrown by most others on the water.
Again these choices can be risky, but often prove a rewarding solution once tested on the water. I admit when I substitute it is often because I lack the exact material called for by the pattern recipe. Sometimes these choices work out and some times they do not. For example, there is no substitution for rubber legs on a Bully’s Bluegill spider. While other leg materials can be tied on the fly, no other material has the appropriate stiffness to act correctly when stripping the fly. Silicone and spanflex are both too soft to return to the open standing position necessary to create the parachute like descent in the water that drives blue gill crazy.
When I make the decision to change a pattern I usually tie about 5-6 for my fly box. If the flies prove themselves I will add more. However if they do not act as exoected in the water or failed to produce I remove them from my flybox. However, with 5-6 flies, I ensure have enough flies to properly test it on the water (and leave a few in trees).
You have to be fearless about tying flies. Often changes to flies prove ill advised, but every so often a tier stumbles into really amazing flies by simply taking at shot at something with a bit of unique flavor.